Another View: California was wrong to issue a permit for Kettleman landfill

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 18, 2014 - 12:00 am

The Bee’s editorial missed the mark by supporting the state Department of Toxic Substances Control’s improper approval of the expansion of Chemical Waste Management’s hazardous waste landfill 3.5 miles from the farmworker community of Kettleman City (“ California should clean its own messes,” Editorials, May 27).

The department’s approval ignored chronic permit violations, racially discriminatory processes, study flaws and the state’s own ranking of Kettleman City in the top 10 percent of vulnerable communities. If upheld, this reckless decision will increase pollution that may add to health problems including birth defects, childhood cancer and infant deaths.

The department relied on Kings County’s environmental impact report, rammed through with racially discriminatory rules that gave Spanish-speaking residents half the time to testify that English speakers had.

The department relied on a flawed and misleading study to claim that pollution from the landfill is minimal. Air monitoring was done in 2010 when waste disposal was less than 5 percent of normal, in contrast to 100 percent waste disposal operations in 2007 when the spike in birth defects took place and no comprehensive monitoring was taking place.

The department essentially held residents hostage by linking the expansion to acquiring funding to provide clean drinking water to residents. No community should have to choose between clean water for their babies and getting dumped on by a toxic waste company.

Chem Waste has been cited for violations that include years of illegal disposal of hazardous waste and PCBs; failing to conduct required monitoring; failing to report 72 hazardous waste spills; and faulty laboratory results. The department’s permit sends a message that polluters can have dozens of violations yet still get new permits.

The Bee correctly states that “California needs to clean up its own messes, not ship it to other states.” But approval of the dump expansion undermines the state’s goal to reduce hazardous waste generation by 50 percent.

The Bee claimed that opposition is from a small environmental group and some residents. In fact, more than 65 environmental, community, social and environmental justice and faith-based groups oppose the expansion.

The Pledge of Allegiance says everyone has a right to “liberty and justice for all,” but apparently the state believes that does not apply to Latinos and Spanish speakers. Will justice prevail?

Bradley Angel is executive director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice in San Francisco and Kettleman City.

Read more articles by Bradley Angel

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